Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is a geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. This non-destructive method uses electromagnetic radiation in the microwave band (UHF/VHF frequencies) of the radio spectrum, and detects the reflected signals from subsurface structures. GPR can be used in a variety of media, including rock, soil, ice, fresh water, pavements and structures. It can detect objects, changes in material, and voids and cracks.
GPR uses transmitting and receiving antennas or only one containing both functions. The transmitting antenna radiates short pulses of the high-frequency (usually polarized) radio waves into the ground. When the wave hits a buried object or a boundary with different dielectric constants, the receiving antenna records variations in the reflected return signal. The principles involved are similar to reflection seismology, except that electromagnetic energy is used instead of acoustic energy, and reflections appear at boundaries with different dielectric constants instead of acoustic impedances.
The depth range of GPR is limited by the electrical conductivity of the ground, the transmitted center frequency and the radiated power. As conductivity increases, the penetration depth also decreases. This is because the electromagnetic energy is more quickly dissipated into heat, causing a loss in signal strength at depth. Higher frequencies do not penetrate as far as lower frequencies, but give better resolution. Optimal depth penetration is achieved in ice where the depth of penetration can achieve several hundred meters. Good penetration is also achieved in dry sandy soils or massive dry materials such as granite, limestone, and concrete where the depth of penetration could be up to 15 m. In moist and/or clay-laden soils and soils with high electrical conductivity, penetration is sometimes only a few centimetres.
Ground-penetrating radar antennas are generally in contact with the ground for the strongest signal strength; however, GPR air launched antennas can be used above the ground.
Cross borehole GPR has developed within the field of hydrogeophysics to be a valuable means of assessing the presence and amount of soil water.
GPR has many applications in a number of fields. In the Earth sciences it is used to study bedrock, soils, groundwater, and ice. Engineering applications include nondestructive testing (NDT) of structures and pavements, locating buried structures and utility lines, and studying soils and bedrock. In environmental remediation, GPR is used to define landfills, contaminant plumes, and other remediation sites, while in archaeology it is used for mapping archaeological features and cemeteries. GPR is used in law enforcement for locating clandestine graves and buried evidence. Military uses include detection of mines, unexploded ordnance, and tunnels.
Before 1987 the Frankley Reservoir in Birmingham, England UK was leaking 540 litres of drinking water per second. In that year GPR was used successfully to isolate the leaks.
Borehole radars utilizing GPR are used to map the structures from a borehole in underground mining applications. Modern directional borehole radar systems are able to produce three-dimensional images from measurements in a single borehole.
One of the other main applications for ground penetration radars to locate underground utilities. Being able to generate 3D underground Images of Pipes, Power, Sewage and Water mains.
Individual lines of GPR data represent a sectional (profile) view of the subsurface. Multiple lines of data systematically collected over an area may be used to construct three-dimensional or tomographic images. Data may be presented as three-dimensional blocks, or as horizontal or vertical slices. Horizontal slices (known as "depth slices" or "time slices") are essentially planview maps isolating specific depths. Time-slicing has become standard practice in archaeological applications, because horizontal patterning is often the most important indicator of cultural activities.
The most significant performance limitation of GPR is in high-conductivity materials such as clay soils and soils that are salt contaminated. Performance is also limited by signal scattering in heterogeneous conditions (e.g. rocky soils).
Other disadvantages of currently available GPR systems include:
* Interpretation of radargrams is generally non-intuitive to the novice.
Recent advances in GPR hardware and software have done much to ameliorate these disadvantages, and further improvement can be expected with ongoing development.
In 2005, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute introduced legislation to regulate GPR equipment and GPR operators to control excess emissions of electromagnetic radiation. The European GPR association (EuroGPR) was formed as a trade association to represent and protect the legitimate use of GPR in Europe.
Ground penetrating radar uses a variety of technologies to generate the radar signal, these are impulse, stepped frequency, FMCW and noise. Systems on the market in 2009 also use DSP to process the data, while survey work is being carried out rather than off line.
GPR is used on vehicles for close-in high speed road survey and landmine detection as well as in stand-off mode.
Pipe Penetrating Radar (PPR) is an application of GPR technologies applied in-pipe where the signals are directed through pipe and conduit walls to detect pipe wall thickness and voids behind the pipe walls.
Wall-penetrating radar can read through walls and even act as a motion sensor for police.
GPR is used for hand held landmine detection to reduce the false alarms experienced by the standard metal detector and systems are available off the shelf (Vallon and L3Com Cyterra)
The "Mineseeker Project" seeks to design a system to determine whether landmines are present in areas using ultra wideband synthetic aperture radar units mounted on blimps.
1. ^ Daniels DJ (ed.) (2004). Ground Penetrating Radar (2nd ed.). Knoval (Institution of Engineering and Technology). pp. 1–4. ISBN 978-0-86341-360-5.
Borchert, Olaf: Receiver Design for a Directional Borehole Radar System Dissertation, University of Wuppertal, 2008, 
* EUROGPR – The European GPR regulatory body